- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 6, 2006

ATLANTA — Pressed by stiff competition for their traditional students, historically black colleges are making a push to recruit Hispanics.

The campuses are hiring Hispanic recruiters, distributing brochures featuring Hispanic students and establishing special scholarships for Hispanics in an attempt to tap the nation’s largest and fastest-growing minority.

At the historically black Texas Southern University in Houston, the school has started five Hispanic student organizations, including fraternities and sororities, to help make the campus more inviting.

“I tell them, ‘There’s a place for you and a need for Latinos to be present on [historically black] campuses,’” said Nelson Santiago, a recruiter for Howard University in Washington. The Puerto Rican native talks to students about his experiences as a student at Howard, where he graduated in 2001.

While the country’s Hispanic population is booming, the number of blacks is increasing at a much slower rate, and other colleges are doing more to attract them. Black colleges want to shore up enrollment numbers.

Recruiters from all-male Morehouse College in Atlanta are visiting predominantly Hispanic high schools and setting up booths to attract Hispanic students at college fairs.

“Considering Latinos and African-Americans share a lot of history together that they don’t realize, I think it’s a good idea,” said John Miranda of Silver Spring, one of 15 Hispanics enrolled at the 2,800-student Morehouse.

Mr. Miranda, the 21-year-old son of Brazilian immigrants, said he chose Morehouse because he was offered a full scholarship funded by an Atlanta foundation that promotes the education of Hispanics.

Some Morehouse students and alumni said they are mixed about actively recruiting Hispanics to historically black colleges.

“I do have concerns,” said Earl Nero, a retired Atlanta businessman who graduated from Morehouse in 1974. “Since the college has determined they want to stay the same size they are, that would take away space from qualified African-American students.”

But having other minorities attending a historically black college will help them get “a real life view about what black people are all about,” Mr. Nero added.

Student James Travis, who is black, said having students of other races on a historically black campus bothers him “a little bit” because it challenges the college’s mission.

“It’s supposed to maintain the historically black tradition,” said the 21-year-old student from the Atlanta suburb of College Park.

Still, educators say the nation’s two largest minority groups are a natural fit on a college campus.

“They are both underserved communities when it comes to higher education,” said Michael Lomax, president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund. “We have got to educate them so that we can have a competitive work force in the 21st century.”

The number of Hispanic students attending historically black colleges increased more than 60 percent from 1994 to 2004, while the number of black students grew by 35 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

In the 1990s, Hispanics surpassed blacks as the nation’s largest minority. The number of Hispanics in the United States grew by nearly 60 percent during that decade, while the number of blacks grew by about 15 percent.

At the same time, the competition for black students has increased as public colleges nationwide try to improve diversity by recruiting more minorities. Some state higher education systems, especially in the South, also have been forced by federal courts to meet specific black recruitment goals under desegregation lawsuits still lingering from the 1960s.

“All colleges want to have a presence of African-American male students on their campus. It makes the competition very tough,” said Sterling Hudson, dean of admissions and records at Morehouse.

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